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Taxpayers funded White Flags in Gozo

Environment Minister takes no responsibility for project he “pioneered”

Gozo Mgarr ix-Xini White Flag
Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana (centre) with Kristijan Curavić inaugurating the White Flag at Mgarr ix-Xini that cost €29,000.

The Gozo Ministry has refused to disclose the amount of money it paid for two White Flags in Gozo – a controversial scheme for ‘plastic free’ beaches that has seen sponsors abandon the project after they paid €25,000 for each flag.

In the third round of replies by the Gozo Ministry in which The Shift News specifically asked the Ministry what amount of money was paid for the project, a spokesman said that an igaming company had sponsored one of three flags so far in Gozo.

Despite repeated reminders, the Ministry would not state how much it paid for the other two beaches, although the Croatian behind the scheme told Lovin Malta that the Ministry got “two for the price of one”.

The Shift News revealed last week that sources within igaming companies said they had paid €25,000 per flag. They also said the money was transferred straight to an account in Zagreb, Croatia.

White Flag payment to Zagreb
The conversation with the source on the money paid for White Flags to a Zagreb account.
Money to Zagreb White Flag
The conversation with the source on the money paid for White Flags to a Zagreb account.

The Ministry had committed to having White Flags placed on all of Gozo’s beaches, while Malta has another four beaches bringing the total number of White Flags on the island to seven.

The Shift News contacted the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation to confirm its support of the White Flag project as promoted by the organisation only to be told that the foundation would be taking legal action against those using its name after several warnings sent to them were ignored.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Jose Herrera has washed his hands of any responsibility relating to the project despite the organisers branding him a “pioneer of ocean protection, preservation and cleaning”.

A basic search of the Croatian behind the project raised accusations of fraud and a past of failed environmental projects, but the Environment Minister told the Times of Malta that he did not feel the need for any due diligence “because he did not sign any contracts” and “he was not defrauded”.

The Minister’s endorsement of the project was heavily used by those behind the project – individuals giving themselves titles such as President and Head of Foreign Affairs for a group consisting of a handful of people. The line up of Ministers in photos with these same individuals is what convinced igaming companies to fork out large sums of money to these people, sources confirmed.

Kristijan Curavić
The ‘environmentalist’ – Kristijan Curavić. Photo: Facebook

When speaking to Lovin Malta, Kristijan Curavić who has a questionable past with environmental projects, “played down” the action to be taken by the prestigious foundation although he did not mention that the foundation’s logo was removed from pages on the project’s web site since The Shift News published its first story on the subject.

Instead, he said, he would be suing The Shift News and Camilla Applegren of Malta Clean Up who has been openly critical of the project.

“Are White Flag International planning to sue a citizen for sharing news and raising questions on a very concerning situation? It is only fair that I express these concerns. I have been doing clean ups for nearly a decade and I know what is genuine. I am not going to fall for any attempt to silence me. I owe it to the thousands of volunteers who join us for these clean ups,” said Applegren.

Partit Nazzjonalista and Partit Demokratiku were harshly critical of the scheme and questioned the government’s motive in endorsing the project.

When defending the project, the Croatian behind the whole idea said this was “a systematic and coordinated attack intended to get at the Maltese government”. Really.

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